‘Blonde’ Writer Joyce Carol Oates Gives Film Two Thumbs Up
On September 23, Andrew Dominik’s long-awaited adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’ bestseller “Blonde,” about the desperate life of Norma Jeane Baker, playing the role of Marilyn Monroe, will be released on Netflix, and it is likely that the world premiere before that at the Venice Film Festival. Oates has already seen the film and approves of it, she revealed during a discussion at the 21st Neuchâtel Intl. Fantastic film festival in Switzerland.
“Andrew Dominik is a very brilliant director. I think he managed to show the Norma Jeane Baker experience from his point of view, rather than seeing it from the outside, the male gaze looking at a woman. He’s is immersed in his point of view,” Oates said.
In her novel, published in 2000, Oates explored the phenomenon of a vulnerable Norma Jeane Baker losing her own identity to that of Marilyn Monroe, a completely invented identity, becoming a product exploited by the film industry. “She’s got fame in the world, but that’s not an identity you can live with. She’s the one who made a lot of money for a lot of men, but not a lot for herself. When she died, at 36, she did not have enough money for a proper funeral,” Oates said.
The teaser for “Blonde” shows Norma Jeane Baker being worked on by her makeup artist, waiting for Marilyn Monroe to arrive in her mirror, and scared she won’t come. “Transforming into Marilyn always took her hours,” Oates said. “Ana de Armas, the wonderful actress who plays her, I think it took her about four hours of makeup. So when you see them on screen, they don’t really exist. It’s like a fantasy image , but to make a living out of it is to endure quite a bit of anguish. As Marilyn grew up, she was still given those roles that a young starlet would play, and she felt humiliated. You can’t continue to playing this dumb blonde as she approaches 40. Some people say she killed herself. I don’t necessarily think that. I think maybe she died of something like despair extreme.
Oates, who was at the festival to serve as president of the international jury, wrote more than 150 novels and stories in a career spanning more than 60 years. She is a Pulitzer Prize multi-finalist, five-time Bram Stoker Prize winner, and has established herself as a ruthless observer of American society. She is very active on Twitter, with more than 136,000 tweets, and is a fierce opponent of Donald Trump.
Next month, her new work “Babysitter,” based on a serial killer who lived in the Detroit area when she lived there, will hit shelves. The novel explores the feelings of fear and anxiety experienced in the midst of the experience, not while thinking about it. “I wanted to chart the emotions and the way people deal with and relate to each other for how long there’s a state of suspended anxiety before you get to the end of something.”
At NIFFF, the prolific writer gave insight into her working method. At 84, she still teaches creative writing at Princeton University. “Before you start really writing, reflect, daydream, meditate, take long walks alone to think about what you’re going to work on,” she advised.
She herself begins to write every day in the early morning, after running or walking for an hour. “When I run, I think of the scenes that unfold, I imagine the interactions. You can build the whole novel this way before writing anything.
Another piece of advice she gives her students is to start with short texts. “Every time you finish a text that you know is good, you have a feeling of happiness, a feeling of completion. A novel can be a burden because years and years can pass before you finish it. and that can drag you down.Many writers have a melancholy and a propensity for depression, so be aware of that.
She told Variety of her sadness at having so many untold stories that she fears she’ll never be able to write them. “Like most writers, I have folders and drawers full of plans, sketches and thousands of pages of notes. I don’t have time to write them. I can only work on one at a time. I have way more work to write than I will ever live to write and it makes me feel bad.
Noting that this was her first trip to Switzerland, she said: “I’m just impressed and thrilled to be in Switzerland, first of all because it’s a civilized country, and that’s quite surprising and original for someone living in the United States, especially since 2016 with these vicious campaigns for the presidency, and our whole society has been very deeply polarized,” Oates said.
“Since 2016, it’s been very evident that there are two Americas, so the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June was not at all surprising,” she told Variety. “America has been very puritanical and very punitive towards women. There is a history in the 18th and 19th centuries where women were seen as second-class citizens and not fully human. There has always been a prejudice against women. women, so it’s very natural to have laws to control them in the U.S. But some people thought that we’ve been past that since the 1960s, that we’re more educated, but we have a complex situation in the country, where a minority of people who are evangelical Christians have disproportionate power.
She said this aging minority is in decline, which is why she’s been so belligerent lately. Oates is very optimistic about the younger generation: “There is a lot of bigotry in the United States in some circles against liberals, blacks, women, immigrants, transgender, gay and lesbian people, a large group which is feared by the white minority of evangelical Christians. That’s why I’m optimistic about the future: there will be more immigrants and there will be more children born to educated people, more education. Education is the key! So ultimately I think the majority will get stronger and swing back to more liberal politics. This will happen in the coming decades, maybe in about 20 years.
The Catholic author turned atheist is just as candid when asked about religion: it interests the naturally skeptical writer only as a psychological and historical phenomenon. “As I got older, it seemed to me that organized religion was a way to control people’s minds and manipulate them into accepting something from reality that shouldn’t be accepted.”
In “A Book of American Martyrs,” published in 2017, Oates, herself pro-choice, deftly tackles the topic of abortion, and unravels the opposing views of anti-abortion evangelist Luther Dunphy and doctor abortionist Augustus Voorhees, respectively the murderer and his victim, as well as those of their daughters. Getting into her characters’ shoes so brilliantly is one of the many talents of the upstate New York-born author.
“There’s no difference between writing from the point of view of a man or a woman, a child or an elderly person,” she told Variety. “The challenge for the writer is to find a language that is original enough to interest the writer. The challenge for the artist is to question himself, so I have to find a specific language for each novel that is different. Language is the challenge.
In interviews, Oates has often described herself as someone without a personality, saying she is “as transparent as a glass of water”. In her work, she explores different perspectives and refuses to write from her own. “I’m interested in holding up a mirror to the world, observing others, and exploring the inside of experiences. I don’t make judgments. I don’t care about putting my own shadow on things. I’m more interested in reflecting the complexity of reality”, she said in Neuchâtel. “If there was a complex situation, I would like to explore all the facets of it rather than having a single perspective of my own.
In the same way, there is no question that she will ever write the story of her life. “I don’t have a story,” she insisted. “We don’t have just one. A day or an hour in your life could be quite a story. I never really felt like I wanted to write about myself. I’m much more interested in other people.